Fever Tree Tonic

Fever-Tree opens a North American headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y., with the hopes

of transforming the drink mixer market with its high-quality products.

By Janice Hoppe-Spiers, Senior Editor at Knighthouse Media

Most consumers only specify the brand of spirit they wish to consume when ordering a drink, completely overlooking the most significant portion of the cocktail: the mixer. “If three-fourths of your drink is the mixer, mix with the best,” says Charles Gibb, Fever-Tree’s North American CEO. “If a majority of the drink is the mixer, then it is responsible for a lot of the taste and experience.”

Fever-Tree was created in 2005 when founders Charles Rolls and Tim Warrillow quickly identified an opportunity to create premium mixers for premium spirits. The partners participated in a tonic tasting in the United States and discovered that the majority of mixers were preserved with sodium benzoate or similar substances and cheap orange aromatics, such as decanal and artificial sweeteners, were widespread.

Fever TreeRolls and Warrillow then founded the UK-based company with the vision of creating premium tonic water, bringing back the original taste and flavor of tonic that is masked with artificial ingredients. Gin and tonic is a classic UK drink, Gibb notes, but because of the quality of available mixers, the drink had been somewhat forgotten and was declining in popularity. “Tonic [that’s out there] is horrible,” he adds. “It was heavily sugared with fructose corn syrup and saccharin in there, so the drinking experience was not a great one for the consumer. Now thanks to Fever-Tree is booming once more.”

To change that, Rolls and Warrillow traveled the world to find cinchona trees in which quinine, a key ingredient for tonic, is found. The pair ended up in the Rwanda Congo where they found a plantation of cinchona trees, which the locals call the fever tree. “Quinine is used for medicinal purposes to ward off the effects of malaria, which is colloquially known as ‘the fever,’ hence the fever tree and how they came up with the company name,” Gibb explains. “That authenticity is still alive in the business today.”

Fever-Tree specializes in premium tonic water, ginger beer, ginger ale, club soda and specialty lemonade. The company sources its ginger from the Ivory Coast in West Africa, Nigeria and India. “We look all over the world to find the very best, highest-quality, all-natural sources and the very best farmers who produce the ingredients,” Gibb notes.

Expanding West

In June, Fever-Tree opened its North American headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y., where it will begin to market the product more heavily in the United States and take control of distribution and innovation. “There is a real opportunity here in the United States because people love talking about their spirits and ordering their spirits by brand,” Gibb notes.

Fever Tree ginger beer

Fever-Tree recently announced its distribution partnership with Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, one of the world’s preeminent selling, logistics and data insights company for alcoholic beverages. “We are partnering with them across 29 states with a real focus on getting into bars and restaurants,” Gibb says. “It also allows us to do a lot of work in the liquor stores as Southern Glazer’s is the largest supplier of premium spirits in the United States. It’s a brilliant partnership from our perspective.”

While launching a new headquarters in the United States is exciting, Fever-Tree is also overcoming a number of challenges. “The United States is a huge country and there are a hell of a lot of people we have to get to and talk to over time,” Gibb says. “How we get our message out is really important to us and raising awareness, which is not just brand awareness, but also getting people to think about their mixers the way they do premium spirit brands. That hasn’t really happened before here and in a way, we are pioneering the market.”

Elevating the Mixer Market

Fever-Tree recently launched its first U.S. innovation with its line of aromatic tonic in waitrose. “By blending the gentle bitterness of South American angostura bark with aromatic botanicals such as cardamom, pimento berry and ginger, we’ve created a delicious, unique tonic water that can be enjoyed in a pink gin and tonic or as a sophisticated soft drink on its own,” Gibb says.

Members of the Royal Navy created pink gin and tonic cocktails in the mid-19th century, which eventually expanded into England’s bar scene. “The concept is rooted in history and obviously reinvented by Fever-Tree in a modern way so now you can make a delicious pink gin and tonic,” Gibb notes.

Fever Tree WaitroseWith its new headquarters in Brooklyn, Fever-Tree will look for opportunities for its product lines around tequila, rum, bourbon and whiskey, which Gibb says are the spirits of choice in the United States. “We have some amazing products like our spiced orange ginger ale and smoky ginger ale, and we look to bring those in over time, and find opportunities to partner with bourbon and whiskey producers,” Gibb says.

“One of the most popular drinks in the U.S. today is the Moscow mule, which is made with vodka, but why not consider other types of mule drinks like bourbon or tequila?” he asks. “That’s the really exciting part of the business is capturing the U.S. drink trends and maximizing our presence.”

Moving forward, Fever-Tree will continue to focus on elevating every drinking experience. “As we accomplish this, we will see distribution growth, business growth and become recognized as the authority on mixing in the market,” Gibb says. “That would be a great place for us to be. We want people coming to us and learning the art of mixing. People love to make great drinks at a bar and at home. We see tremendous opportunity.”

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